Solidarity with hate victims

Bhubaneswar: To counter rising hate crime, Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a civil society initiative of solidarity and conscience, was on a recent tour of the state.

During its three-day tour of the state, Karwan-e-Mohabbat, now in its second year, visited Gurudijhatia in Cuttack district where homes of Dalit people were set on fire by upper caste neighbours in April last year.

It also visited Dhobatal in the same district where a Christian place of worship was burnt down in August last year.

The Karwan-e-Mohabbat's third stop was Bhadrak town that saw communal clashes in April last year.

In the violence around 25 shops belonging to two communities were burnt down. The caravan also visited Kandhamal, the scene of communal carnage in December 2007 and August 2008.

"Odisha revealed itself to be a state torn apart by communal and caste mobilisation. The wounds from the gruesome killings of Kandhamal are completely unhealed because justice has been denied and the society bitterly divided with acts of sustained hatred. The state administration has failed to protect its minorities and disadvantaged castes, but I am dismayed also that the political Opposition and large sections of civil society have also abandoned them," said Harsh Mander, human rights worker and writer.

In Kandhamal, the Karwan team found the Batticola Catholic parish has been converted into a temple. The Christian survivors, 35 families, of the 2008 pogrom now stay at Nandgiri Shantinagar with no hopes of ever going back to their homes. Their fields are now the properties of their neighbours.

"I am particularly aghast at the bias and lethargy of the criminal justice and rehabilitation process manifest whether the victims were Christians, Muslims or Dalits," said Karwan member John Dayal.

"The Dalit houses have not been built, disproportionate number of Muslim youths had been arrested in Bhadrak and the fact that thousands of Christians remain banished from their ancestral villages are a dangerous sign," he added.

Activist Dayal has been working on violence and justice issues in Odisha for two decades.

"It was extremely distressing to meet the widows and families of the victims in Kandhamal, as they recounted the details of the mob violence and their struggle to pursue justice. The determination and courage of the survivors was reassuring and needs to be supported by the state as well as civil society," said Natasha Badhwar, author and Karwan member.


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